Before the Patriots' final preseason game Thursday night against the New York Giants, I have revised my projections for the team's final 53-man roster, which is based partly on my player power rankings.
This takes into account roster cuts and some change of thought. For those changes, I've bolded the name of the players in question.
Once again, there is no change here. Here's what I wrote last time: I still believe, despite not playing on Thursday, that Tim Tebow has a roster spot reserved for him. Bill Belichick has given no indication otherwise. But I wouldn't be surprised if he's cut either.
Running backs (5)
While I contend that there is no reason the Patriots cannot keep five running backs, I have changed whom I think the team will keep in that group, removing veteran kick returner Leon Washington and replacing him with fullback and tight end James Develin. Washington didn't record one kickoff return in the team's third preseason game, widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Meanwhile, Develin has been showcased more and more.
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Tight ends (4)
There's no substantial change here except for the departure of rookie tight end Evan Landi. The Patriots will possibly weigh putting Rob Gronkowski on the physically unable to perform list right up until the league's 6 p.m. deadline Saturday. If he were to go on the PUP list, that would open a roster spot for someone else. The team also carried four tight ends to start the 2012 season. But they've never had five, which leaves at least one more player out of the mix. Right now, I see that being Daniel Fells. He'll need to prove his worth against the Giants Thursday night.
Wide receivers (6)
There is no change here. Here's a snippet of what I wrote in my first projection: The Patriots kept six wide receivers to start the 2010 and 2011 regular season. Considering the size of the quarterback, tight end, and running back groups, wide receiver Matthew Slater may seem like a luxury as a core special teams player. Luckily for him, he is highly valued by the team.
Offensive linemen (8)
After Markus Zusevics was placed on injured reserve, that freed up a spot for another versatile lineman. I can see that roster spot easily going to Josh Kline, who while green, can play both guard and tackle. Because this position group has so much versatility, the team can afford to go with only eight linemen while other position groups swell. The team carried eight offensive linemen in 2011. Some consideration should be given to the relatively young group of backups on the roster who have practice squad eligibility.
Defensive linemen (8)
I continue to believe the team will cut Jake Bequette, hoping if it's at all possible to move him to their practice squad, while moving on from veteran Jermaine Cunningham, who has not been able to participate in preseason games. And as I've stated before, some players are competing against others across positions. In this particular case, Bequette provides less value to the team than Tavon Wilson, who can also serve on special teams.
There is no change here. Here's what I wrote in my very first projection: There should be no surprises here. Steve Beauharnais is a seventh-round pick who has some special teams value and Dane Fletcher can provide insurance in case Brandon Spikes goes down with an injury. Linebackers Niko Koutouvides and Jeff Tarpinian, who have been core special teams players, are likely the victim of larger position groups on offense.
Cutting cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who played all of nine games over his first two seasons because of injuries, was the right thing to do. It makes the rest of the team's decisions for the secondary much easier.
I still think second-year pro Tavon Wilson is on the bubble. Again, he has not developed well reading and reacting in passing situations, but he provides some value on special teams and there is always the possibility that the light could switch on for him. Rookie Duron Harmon and Steve Gregory should be the team's primary backups.
Stephen Gostkowski (K)
Zoltan Mesko (P)
Danny Aiken (LS)
No change here: Zoltan Mesko will likely beat out rookie Ryan Allen because he has been more consistent and he excels at directional punting.